Belfast Telegraph

Emotional wellbeing now a priority, says top Northern Ireland doctor

Emotional health and well-being is equally as important as physical health and well-being, Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has said
Emotional health and well-being is equally as important as physical health and well-being, Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has said
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Emotional health and well-being is equally as important as physical health and well-being, Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has said.

Dr Michael McBride made the comments ahead of World Mental Health Day today, adding that one in five of us will be affected by a mental health issue.

He also said that every single one of us will have a family member, friend or colleague who has experienced mental ill-health to some degree.

His 11th annual report examined issues including the need for "a balanced use of social media and technology" and he voiced concerns over the stigma that prevents people from seeking help.

The report also details the development of emotional health and well-being in children and young people "because positive mental health in childhood contributes to productive relationships and good health throughout life".

"Good mental health builds resilience," Dr McBride said.

"If you are feeling more resilient, you are better prepared to cope with life's challenges.

"At other times, you may require support to bounce back.

"It is not uncommon for people to experience difficulties with their mental health at some point in their life.

"One in five of us will be affected and every one of us will have a friend, family member or colleague who has experienced a degree of mental ill-health."

Dr McBride stressed the importance of sending out the message that help is available and that recovery is possible - but he also said he was concerned about the negativity that still surrounds mental health.

"It is important to emphasise that help is available and that recovery is possible," he said.

"However, I remain concerned that stigma continues to be a barrier for people seeking help with mental health issues, and stigma can itself adversely affect someone's mental health.

"We all need to tackle stigma to create a lasting, positive change in people's attitudes towards mental health."

The importance of balanced use of social media and technology is also highlighted in the study, which was published yesterday.

"Social media and screen-based activities can be hugely beneficial for children and young people, encouraging social interaction, education and providing access to support and information," he said, stressing that it shouldn't "intrude on activities such as exercise and quality sleep".

Dr McBride also called on parents to agree boundaries with children and young people around online behaviours and time spent using screens.

He added: "We can all take steps to look after our mental health and to help those who are close to us."

Dr McBride highlighted some useful resources in his latest report, including the Take five steps to wellbeing - Be active, Give, Connect, Keep Learning, and Take Notice. The report is available at: www.health-ni.gov.uk/cmoannualreport2018/19.

More information on looking after mental health and the support which is available across Northern Ireland can be found at: www.mindingyourhead.info. You can also talk to your GP for advice.

If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

This is a confidential service where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary.

Call the 24-hour helpline seven days a week, or visit the Lifeline website: www.lifelinehelpline.info.com.

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